Thursday, July 14, 2022



Back in the 70s, when I was younger and dumber,

            I was hitch hiking from Denver to Greeley.

Two men picked me up.

They were fresh out of prison

            on parole for serious felonies.

One of them intended to rob me.The other did not.

Unfortunately, their communication with each other

            was unworthy of partners in crime.

Criminals, like spouses, need to talk to each other.

 One of them told me way too much about themselves.


They drove out into the beet fields Northeast of Ft. Lupton, 

flashed a gun,  relieved me of my $15, 

put me out of the car in the middle of nowhere, 

    and drove off.

Then they remembered they’d told me their names,

            their parole officer’s name, where they lived, etc.

Letting me live wasn’t smart.

They came back and ordered me into the car.

But I wasn’t that dumb.

So one got out and tried to drag me in.

Then, the miracle. A car came driving down that lonely dirt road.

I dragged my assailant into the path of the oncoming vehicle.

He let go and I started flagging down the car.


When I saw the driver, I knew I was ok.

He was a fit, clean-cut, young white guy -- my kind of people.

I knew I was saved.

He sped up, nearly killed me, and rushed right past. 

The robber resumed pulling me toward their car.


Then, miracle of miracles, another car along.

Again I pulled the robber into car’s lane. 

Again, the robber released me.

Again, I started to flag down the car.

But this time when I saw the driver, my heart sank.

She was a Latina mother in a cheap old car 

    hauling a load of kids.

No way was she going to stop for me in a dangerous situation.


She didn’t stop.

She slowed down, threw open the passenger door 

for me to jump in on the run, then hit the gas and sped off.

She turned out to be someone with a strong reason 

    to avoid situations.

Her family was undocumented.

But if they’d been legally in Mexico 

    instead of illegally in Colorado,

            I’d be pushing up sugar beets in Weld County.


The lawyer had read Leviticus. 

He knew salvation depends on loving our neighbor.

But he asked: who is my neighbor? Jesus answered:

A Jew was beaten, robbed, and left by the road.

A priest and Levite came along. 

They were bound by race, religion, & nationality 

    to help their fellow Jew.

But they just passed him by.  

Then along came s Samaritan

            -- wrong race, wrong religion, wrong nationality. 

But he stopped and helped

beyond anything the Jew could expect from his own kind.

Jesus said, “go and do likewise."


So, when the chips were down, 

why did I assume the young white guy would save me

and the Latina mother would not?

In the Stone Ages people used tribalism as a survival strategy.

Tribalism -- -- us vs them  -- our group vs their group – told them 

who they were bound to help 

and who they could expect help from.

Evolution passes survival strategies 

    down through the generations

            so it’s with us today 

    -- White vs Black, Christian vs Muslim, 

Liberal vs Conservative, Straight vs. Gay, 

Native vs Immigrant.


Dividing into antagonistic groups is wired into all of us.

It’s the way of the world. Enter Jesus. 

He said, In this world you will have trouble.

He might have elaborated, 

            You will have racism, classism, 

            divisions of religion, politics, and language.


In this world you will have trouble, Jesus said, 

            but take heart. I have overcome the world.

Jesus can set us free from those constraints that separate us 

-- divisions that shackle our minds 

            and hold us back from full humanity. 

They make our hearts tighter, 

our minds narrower, and our lives smaller.


But how does that work? 

How do we overcome genetically programed prejudice? 

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum, calls it participatory imagination,

            seeing things through another person’s eyes,

                        walking in their shoes, feeling what they feel.

Basic empathy expands our experience 

    and wisdom immeasurably.

It’s a fundamental part of being human.

Nussbaum says today fear is intensifying our divisions. 

We are regressing into tribalism,

 losing our capacity for participatory imagination. 

and our lives are diminished.

Jesus said, 

    I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.

To make our life abundant, 

    Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor,

especially our who neighbor is the wrong race, 

wrong nationality, wrong religion, wrong language, 

wrong sexuality, or wrong political party. 

Imagine how things look to that person

and – bam! -- the size of your life doubles. 

But how can we possibly 

    go against genetically wired human nature

to love across the divide?

The answer is enabling, empowering, amazing grace.

Whatever Jesus commands us to do,

            he gives us the power to do it. 


To love across the divides is a miracle – a supernatural act.

But we can do it – with God’s help.

We just direct our hearts toward anyone Jesus calls us to love,

then pray for Jesus to open our hearts and our eyes.

His grace will do the rest.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2022




Beware of practicing your piety before (others).

There’s a public display of piety at my grocery store.

A magazine cover beside the cashier features a woman 

            in the mountain yoga pose, eyes serenely closed,

            a self-satisfied smile on her lips.

Below her tranquil face, the text reads, I am enough.

Well, Methinks the lady doth protest too much. 

I mean, does anyone who is that sure they are enough assume a yoga pose 

            on a silly magazine cover proclaiming 

            that they are enough?


I ‘m not criticizing yoga.

I just wrote dust jacket endorsement for a yoga book.

I respect the kindness of assuring people of their worth.

We do have worth.  

We are God’s children, created in God’s image.

God has wonderfully created and yet more wonderfully 

               restored the dignity of human nature.

But are we, in ourselves, enough to handle life’s challenges?

The leading proponent of I am enough philosophy 

        is author, motivational speaker, 

        and personal trainer, Marisa Peer.

She also offers hypnotherapy, 

        programs to change our thoughts, 

            and ways to lose weight.

If I’m enough, why do I need to get hypnotized, 

            change my thoughts, 

            and lose weight?

Maybe I'm too much. 

Peer also sells an audio titled 

        Why Lying To Yourself Could Be A Good Thing.

You see why I’m suspicious?


No ancient spiritual tradition says we are enough

        -- not the Hindu Vedas, the Buddhist Sutras, or the Bible.

Are we stronger than Shakespeare’s 

        slings and arrows of outrageous fortune  

         . . . the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to?

I’m not. 

The only prayer I’ve ever prayed with 100% sincerity is Help!

It’s my prayer when I know good and well I’m not enough.  


We may occasionally work up an inflated illusion 

          of self-sufficiency. 

But deep inside, we know we are not enough.

So we spend our lives compensating.

Maybe we can make enough money to be ok.

In the 1960s, oil tycoon, J. Paul Getty, 

        was the world’s richest man.

A journalist asked him,  

            Mr. Getty, how much money do you need? 

            How much is enough?

Getty answered, Just one more dollar.


Maybe we listen to the right music, read the right books, 

          or have the right friends.

But Ecclesiastes says, I have seen all the(se) deeds 

            that are done under the sun.

            They are mere chasing after the wind.

Polishing our resume and reciting the I am enough mantra 

               won’t wash away our dusty nature, our human frailly.


So on Ash Wednesday, we admit,

               that (we) are dust and to dust (we) shall return.

But these aren’t words of despair. Quite the opposite. 

Holy Scripture is the roadmap for our journey from dust to glory.

St. Augustine showed us how that works.

He tried everything to compensate for not being enough.

He won at sports. 

He used romantic conquests to prove to he was desirable.

He tried to get rich. 

He became a famous scholar.

But it didn’t work. 

Augustine summed up his achievements and said:

               We pursued the empty glory of popularity, 

               ambitious for the applause  of the audience . . .

               to win a garland of mere grass.


But the story has a happy ending.

Augustine discovered that his sense of inadequacy 

           was really his longing for God. 

He said, There is a God-shaped hole in every human heart 

         that only God can fill.

God is enough. Only God is enough.


Dean Richard recently spoke of our absolute dependence 

           on God.

He was echoing the greatest 19th Century theologian, 

           Freiderich Schleiermacher, who said 

                faith means admitting our absolute dependence on God.  

As the old hymn says, 

                I need thee every hour, most gracious Lord. 

               I need thee. O I need thee. Every hour I need thee.


Paul didn’t measure up either. 

The Corinthians fired him.

Besides his physical handicap, 

               Paul’s sermons were so boring 

               a young man in a balcony fell asleep 

              and plummeted to his death.

So if your neighbor starts nodding, give them a little nudge.


Paul didn’t measure up, but he did a fine job of compensating.

He bragged, 

             If anyone has reason for confidence . . . I have more.

 Then he read us his impressive resume. 

Paul had the degrees, certificates, and credentials.

But then he said, Now I count all these things as rubbish 

     – that’s the translator’s polite word for what Paul actually said

                               – 4-letters.

  I count (them) all as rubbish compared to the surpassing worth

                of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord.

Not -enough-ness is the God-shaped hole in our heart.

The journey begins in dust – nowhere else.

When we give our flawed, failed, futile selves to God, 

               that’s when we become whole.

Only God is enough. Only in God are we enough.

In God, we will be abundantly more than enough. 

Austrian psychotherapist, Eugene Gendlin, 

               called today’s sovereign self-reliance process skipping.

Buddhist psychologist John Wellwood calls it spiritual bypassing.

Both say to skip the trip is to miss the goal.

We reach the East by sailing West.

To see the light we face our deeper darkness. 

The path to God -- our hope and our joy -- 

                begins when we admit 

               that we are dust and to dust we shall return.


Tuesday, January 18, 2022



Today’s Gospel lesson is puzzling. 

John tells 7 miracle stories

        -- 3 taken directly from the earlier Gospels

       -- 3 roughly similar to the earlier Gospels.

Then there’s this one – water into wine. 

It’s entirely different.

Most miracles are healings. 

Others display Jesus’ power to the multitudes.

But he did this one privately in the kitchen


        – not publicly in the banquet hall.

The sommeliers at the party gave credit 

        to the bridegroom -- not Jesus.


So is this just a parlor trick?  

It must be important.  

It was Jesus’ first miracle in John.

In case we’ve lost count, the last verse says, 

This was Jesus’ first miracle

Miracle doesn’t mean magic. 

It means sign. But what’s it a sign of?


There’s much here I still don’t understand,

             but the main point is clear.

The first miracle keeps the party rolling. 

It enables the host to provide for his guests. 

But instead of just making a run to Argonaut,[1]


    Jesus used this miracle as a sign 

        of deep spiritual hospitality.

It’s the first miracle because everything 

    Jesus will do flows from that spirit 

    of profound welcome.

I used to associate hospitality

     with superficial niceties 

    in Southern Living Magazine.

But John Koenig’s book, 

New Testament Hospitality, says hospitality 

    was the heart of Jesus’ message 

            -- feeding the multitude; 

        the homecoming party for the prodigal son;

       sharing meals with tax collectors, 

           sinners, and pharisees;

            inviting: All who are weary 

           and heavy laden, come to me.

            Let the children come to me.


Christian worship still expresses 

           Jesus’ welcome.


T. S. Eliot called our sacraments commodious,


            the medieval word for welcoming.

In the Eucharist, 

    we receive Christ into our hearts

      as he receives us into his Body. 


In the Ancient Middle East, 

    hospitality was the foundation of morality.

Then the Bible elevated it 

    to a spiritual discipline. 

To see how this spirituality works, 

    we need to recognize the two sides 

        of hospitality – inner and outer. 

Outer hospitality welcomes 

    and cares for other people. 

Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas called it 

    the primordial act of gentleness.

He said we become our true selves 

    through greeting strangers 

            – people who are not like us.[2]

The Bible says our humanity blossoms 

    when we discover God in each other.

Centuries before Jesus supplied wine 

    for a party,

  Abraham invited three strangers into his tent,

          gave them food to eat and water to drink.

The strangers turned out to be God.


Just so, Jesus said, 

    I was hungry, and you gave me food

    I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; 

    I was a stranger, and you invited me in . . . 


    (For when) you did it to even the least 

           of my brothers, you did it to me.

The first Rule of Life for Christian monks says,

        Let all guests . . . be received like Christ,

          for he is going to say, 

“I came as a guest, and you received me”.

That’s outer hospitality.

The other side of the coin is inner hospitality,

    and outer hospitality is impossible  without it. 

All depth psychologists agree 

            that we have different parts inside.

They can be called subpersonalities.


Some are easy to get along with.

Other parts of ourselves we don’t like so much.

We try to banish them, but they won’t leave.[3]


Depth psychologist, Roberto Assagioli, 

    says we also have a Core Self, a Soul.

Our Soul respects all our subpersonalities, 

     is interested in them,

     and welcomes them as friends.

When our Souls befriend the disagreeable 

    parts of ourselves, we’re healed inside. 

We become whole. That’s inner hospitality.


Now here’s the connection 

         between inner and outer hospitality.

Recently I had a meeting with some people 

          who were angry with me.

As the meeting date approached, 

         I felt threatened and defensive. 

My Defender subpersonality, 

        which resembles an abused pit bull,

             was devising arguments to prove 

           I was right and they were wrong.


I was right, by the way, but that isn’t the point.

Usually, I do such meetings in pit bull mode.

But this time, for the first time, 

       my Defender and my Soul had a talk.

My Soul understood, cared for, 

     and appreciated my anxious angry Defender.

The Defender asked, 

    How should we handle this meeting?

My Soul said, 

        Suppose I take the meeting for you? 

The Defender said, ok. 

At that meeting, I listened to my attackers, 

    cared for them, understood their concerns, 

     and shared their hopes.

The meeting ended well, 

         and my enemies became friends.


Inner hospitality produced hospitality 

       toward others.


The wine for the party miracle comes first

            because all of Jesus’ teaching 

           and healing flow 

            from a deep spiritual hospitality.


But what’s that got to do with us? Just this:

Jesus empowers us to welcome 

        as he welcomes.

 At the wedding banquet, 

   he equipped the bridegroom to be hospitable.

He does the same for us.

Jesus empowers us to welcome 

           and care for our whole selves,

     then to welcome and care for other people.



So today, I invite you to be kind 

            to a part of yourself 

            that you don’t particularly like.

Then look for an opportunity to be gracious

            to someone you might ordinarily ignore.

It may not come easy; 

        but, by the grace of God, you can do it 

            -- and it’s the most important practice 

           of your spiritual life,

            the primordial act of gentleness.[4]

[1] Liquor store with which St. John’s Cathedral shares a parking 


[2] Levinas says we truly discover our existence and our nature

 when we encounter someone who is not us. Themore unlike us

the better. In object relations psychoanalysis we see ourselves 

reflected in the eyes of others. Like it or not, “no man is an 

island.” We need each other in order to be ourselves.

[3] This is why outer hospitality is impossible without inner 

hospitality. As long as we try to banish the disowned parts of 

ourselves, we project them onto other people. We see in others

 our own exiled subpersonalities. Even if we could befriend the 

other person as they are in themselves, we reject them because

 they carry the image of our despised parts.


[4] When a friend calls to me from the road 
And slows his horse to a meaning walk, 
I don't stand still and look around 
On all the hills I haven't hoed, 
And shout from where I am, What is it? 
No, not as there is a time to talk. 
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground, 
Blade-end up and five feet tall, 
And plod: I go up to the stone wall 
For a friendly visit.

                             -- Robert Frost